Issue #181  5/31/2011
Swann's May Auction Totals Just Under $1 Million With Large Buy-in Rate of 37%

By Alex Novak

It wasn't the most intriguing auction that Swann put on this May 19th, but it produced yeoman-type results, bringing in $968,120, against a low estimate (without premium) of $1,169,650. More disturbing was the very high buy-in rate of over 37%--the highest of the Spring New York sales. That is even worse than its recent March sale's buy-ins at 26%, its December sale when buy-ins were at 31% and its October sale when buy-ins stood at 34%. I will ignore Swann's silly claims of records for individual images, as opposed to photographer records.

The top ten lots consisted of:

Lot 289, André Kertész, A Hungarian Memory, a portfolio complete with 15 silver prints, which sold to a collector for $48,000.

Lucky lot 13, Alfred Stieglitz, 291, numbers 1-12, which sold to a lucky dealer for only $31,200.

Lot 253, Roy DeCarava, Dancers, a later print bought by a collector for a whopping $22,800.

Lot 212 ,Walker Evans, a group of five silver prints from the portfolio, which sold to a dealer for $21,600.

Lot 199, Josef Koudelka, Gypsy, Romania, which sold to a collector for $21,600.

Lot 298, Herman Rubin's 68 photographs of Hollywood from the 1930s, sold to a collector for $19,200.

Lot 203, the Brassaï portfolio with 10 silver prints sold to a dealer for a very reasonable $16,800.

In a four-way tie for tenth place:

Lot 142, group of 50 albumen prints attributed to Frederick Gutekunst, related to the Philadelphia Society of Artists and rural scenes in Delaware County, sold to a dealer for $15,600.

Lot 309, Francesca Woodman, Untitled, sold to a dealer for $15,600.

Lot 305, a small (11 x 14 inch) Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bords de la Marne, printed late 1980s, sold to a collector for $15,600.

Lot 194 W. Eugene Smith, Minamata--Tomoko and Her Mother (Japan), sold to a collector for $15,600.

The top book in the sale was lot 17, Alvin Langdon Coburn's New York, first edition, London & New York, which sold to a collector for $14,400.

Novak has over 47 years experience in the photography-collecting arena. He is a long-time member and formally board member of the Daguerreian Society, and, when it was still functioning, he was a member of the American Photographic Historical Society (APHS). He organized the 2016 19th-century Photography Show and Conference for the Daguerreian Society. He is also a long-time member of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers, or AIPAD. Novak has been a member of the board of the nonprofit Photo Review, which publishes both the Photo Review and the Photograph Collector, and is currently on the Photo Review's advisory board. He was a founding member of the Getty Museum Photography Council. He is author of French 19th-Century Master Photographers: Life into Art.

Novak has had photography articles and columns published in several newspapers, the American Photographic Historical Society newsletter, the Photograph Collector and the Daguerreian Society newsletter. He writes and publishes the E-Photo Newsletter, the largest circulation newsletter in the field. Novak is also president and owner of Contemporary Works/Vintage Works, a private photography dealer, which sells by appointment and has sold at exhibit shows, such as AIPAD New York and Miami, Art Chicago, Classic Photography LA, Photo LA, Paris Photo, The 19th-century Photography Show, Art Miami, etc.